I went to a Catholic school back in the 1970s and early 80s. The school was typically strict and corporal punishment was well known to be used, but only in the principal’s office.
The principal, Sister Catherine [names changed – Ed] was a fearsome lady and had no problem administering spankings to both boys and girls. However, you really had to work at it, and avoiding corporal punishment was pretty straightforward if you just followed the rules. So neither I nor my friends had ever been sent for the dreaded principal’s office visit. That is, until the incident I am about to relate.
Also, more unusually for the time, I was never spanked at home. It’s not that my parents were philosophically opposed to it – I vividly remember my father giving my little sister a sound, bare bottom spanking over his knee on one memorable occasion – it’s just that I generally never really got into much trouble.
Now fast forward to sixth grade, my final year at the school. We were doing a quiz in science class and one of my friends, a girl named Gina, asked me for some help. Naively, I let her look at my paper, and genuinely didn’t think I was doing anything wrong.
Unfortunately Mrs Smith, our teacher, saw this happen. She confronted Gina out of my hearing, and I saw her writing up a referral to the principal’s office for her. I was sorry for Gina, of course, but I really didn’t think this was going to cause me any problems.
However, right as class was ending, Mrs Smith grabbed my arm and detained me until the other children had gone. She looked me sternly in the eye: “Did you help Gina on her quiz, young man?” “No ma’am!” I replied. Mrs Smith said nothing and let me go.
I honestly thought nothing of it until close to the end the day. A runner – a kind of student assistant – came into my last class and handed me a referral to the principal’s office. Worse, it was a ‘red’ referral, which meant an immediate after-school detention. Everyone knew what that meant, and I knew I would be very lucky indeed to escape punishment.
A red referral also meant that they had already called your parents to tell them that would be staying after school. So you can imagine my dismay when I arrived at Sister Catherine’s office, was told to go straight in by her frowning secretary and saw my mother sitting there. Mrs Smith was also present. I looked at these three female authority figures and my knees turned to jelly.
Sister Catherine opened the proceedings by listing my crimes: cheating on a quiz (helping someone else counted, apparently); lying about it to Mrs Smith when initially asked, and continuing the lying by not going to the principal’s office once my friend had been sent down. All of this seemed very unfair to me but my throat was too dry to offer any significant defence.
Then, to my intense embarrassment and fear, Sister Catherine starting talking to my mother about spankings in our house. She said: “I presume that cheating and lying are offences that you and your husband take very seriously.
“I am going to administer punishment today in this office, but I’d like to know how you handle this sort of behaviour at home.” My mother told sister that I had not been spanked in a long time but she agreed that in this case, a good spanking was certainly deserved.
Sister Catherine gave my mother a look of disapproval upon discovering that regular spankings weren’t being handed out at home. Then she stood up from behind her desk and pulled out a narrow, rather thin wooden paddle, and came around to seat herself in front of the desk. On her instruction I stood at her side, lowered my pants, and then went across her wide lap. I kept my head down, both to avoid looking at my mother or Mrs Smith – and to avoid crying.
Then it got worse, as Sister Catherine addressed my mother again. “I think that for something this serious, the spanking should be administered across the bare bottom, would you agree?” She must have gotten a nod of approval, because the next thing that happened was my underpants being firmly pulled down to my knees. I felt the cool wood placed across my bare buttocks, and then the paddling began. It was slow and hard, and I eventually cried and cried without restraint.
After the spanking, I was ordered to write 100 words of apology to Mrs Smith for cheating, and after I complied, I was finally allowed to go home with my mother. We actually never spoke of this punishment again.